After that incredible reminder of the true natural beauty that surrounds us, it was back to business as the boys prepared for their final match on tour. The footballers were dropped off first at the immaculate Southland Football Club grounds where once again the boys were confronted with a more fancied and experienced opposition in James Hargest on an immaculate synthetic field. After a pregame psyche-up which involved keeping a positive mindset, Liam Spiropoulos led his team out for the last time.
The match started with James Hargest dominating both possession and field position, stretching the defence and having many shots on goal. Thankfully for the black and white army, many of these shots were off target. After being on the receiving end of fast break goals in the first two games, it was the Newington team looking most likely to scores goal by turning defence into attack with some expertly placed through balls allowing strikers Chris Mina, Chris Tsolakis and Tom Baird some space in behind the defence. It was The local team that was first on the board when a strike from distance took a horrible turn for keeper Sam Sullivan and into the back of the net. 0-1.
Carrying an injury into the game, young Stefano Ottavio succumbed to the injury in the 15th minute, with Tom Billingham getting his chance in the centre back position. With a second goal to James Hargest soon after, the positive start from Newington was beginning to wane. No one told Liam Spiropoulos! After a perfect pass from Aiden Mostofi, Jake Boiling held the ball up perfectly for Spiropoulos to chip the keeper from 30 yards and put Newington back in it. 1-2 half time!
Spirits were soaring at the half time break as the sniff of victory wafted through the camp. The second half started with the black and white army dominating, with Mostofi, Jakes and Makovec coming into their own. At the back Aidan Principe was outstanding, nullifying raid after raid, and creating chances in the process. One chance saw a perfectly crafted play that saw Mostofi in space, where he was able to get in behind the defence and punish a left footed screamer in the top left corner of the net. 2-2. From here it was all Newington with chance after chance being created. Late in the second half a raid down the right side saw Makovec break clear and finish with aplomb and put the side up 3-2. Denis Antipas and Kieran Casey were providing ample support both in the middle and on the flanks.
Mostofi then had the chance to put the result beyond doubt when he cut inside and piloted the ball just past the near post. With only a minute remaining in the match a fast break from the opposition saw a rocket of a shot leave Ottavio with no chance and the James Hargest team had dodged a bullet. 3-3 the final result with Principe named man of the match and a lot of satisfied and exhausted boys headed over to the Marist Rugby fields.
With spirits high, the rugby boys entered the Marist Rugby Club facility to prepare for their last match. On arrival, it was learnt that we were to play a team from the Marist club and a team from Invercargill Star club. As these 2 club teams were relatively even in standard and ability, it was decided that Newington would choose parallel teams for the last match. This ended up being an inspired decision providing the boys with the perfect finish for the playing component of the tour.
Mr Wilson’s team, captained by Tom Cowdroy ran out against the Marist club team. After confronting another Haka, the team were keen to finish off on a positive note. Early indications told we were in for another good performance with Newington winning the field position battle. By surprise, our opponents were first to score after going 95 metres with an individual try to a Lomuesque winger.
Responding with a flurry of tries, the Newington team displayed how far they have come on tour. Absolutely every player contributed with an individual moment to remember. In the backs, Rhys Miller showed tenacity and skill at halfback. Will Rumi carved through our opponents and tackled all that moved. Sebastian Hailwood was expert under the high ball and Liam Dundon showed quick hands. Xavier Sheahan was diverse playing fullback as well as hooker and Garth (Brooks) Bickford crossed for another tour try. Tom Oates continued his brilliant form and commitment to the cause. But it was Marcus Renshaw who provided the play of the day with an immense chase and try saving tackle on a dynamic opponent.
In the forwards, Angus Ole was a colossus! Tom Cowdroy pumped his legs to carry defenders. Mikey Hassen, James Davison and Ethan Strawbridge were in everything and Will Stormont, Sam Eagleton and Tom Moody ran for huge metres. But it was Alex Frye who was awarded with man of the match after throwing himself into the teeth of the defence with regularity and success. Against an extremely aggressive and threatening opponent, the Newington boys held firm for a convincing win. With individual try scores too many to keep track of, the exact score ended up 37-12 in favour of the visitors.
Mr Hazelton’s team captained by Tom Hirst took to the field against local club side Star. A quick rearrange before the game did not impact of the boys ability to get out on the field and immediately slotting in position. The forwards dominated at the breakdown with David Doust, Mackenzie Sheppard and Ethan Strawbridge laying the foundation and making an impressive effort to get to all of the breakdowns. It wasn’t long before the strong performance of the forwards gave the backs a lot of opportunity to work their magic. Flynn Gannon provided great service from the base of the ruck/scrum, he also scored four tries in a man of the match performance. Ridley De Lange, Jarrah Ronan and Ned Greenwell linked effortlessly to string together many phases of passing to constantly challenge the defence and get over the advantage line.
The points started to flow in Newington’s favour and Oliver Kleppich got to test out his sights to go with his impressive defensive efforts often making one on one tackles in a last ditch attempt to quell their impressively large ball running number 8 and 13. Gabe Poidevin and Zac Zoud were impressive on both wings, injecting themselves into the play when appropriate and using great lines and width in their running.
The second half of the last match of a tour would provide a perfect platform for some players to try out a position they may not have played before, a perfect example was Toby Phillips running at 5/8 (he passes way too well for a prop). Toby and Tom Hirst both tried to Mal Meninga toe poke conversions, both missed. Sam Bristow, Hamish Danks and Will Gray all did Lindfield proud by providing a strong finish to the game with an excellent attitude and intensity. When the ref blew the final whistle the score read 56-0 in Newington’s favour and all boys were positively wrapped with their performance.
At the conclusion of the matches, all 33 Newington rugby players congregated in the centre of the field to sing a Newington chant, in celebration of an unbelievably successful tour. With 3 wins overall from the 6 games it has been a tour to remember for our rugby contingent. Once again our New Zealand hosts provided our group with an after-match function including refreshments and pleasantries. In a great display of mutual respect, the boys from either side took time talking and getting to know each other at the function. This is surely one of the most beneficial aspects provided by sport and one our boys enjoyed immensely.